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Irresponsible Speculation

So what if there were a Senator who wants to be Secretary of State and also sits on the Judiciary Committee. What that be the sort of person who might know about a Justice Department investigation into misconduct by another prominent member of the Democratic national security establishment . . . ?

Contrary to what a lot of liberals are saying, the timing of this is all wrong to be a Republican plot. You would want to leak it the day after the 9-11 report came out to try and bump that story off the front pages. This way you just ensure that Berger gets bumped by the report and then the convention. Besides which, the story would have been more damaging to the Kerry campaign if they held onto it until October or so -- the closer to the election, the more awkward it is to dump one of your top foreign policy advisors. I smell an inside job.

At any rate, leaving soon for a TAP retreat to some godforesaken place from which I may or may not be blogging. Enjoy!

July 21, 2004 | Permalink

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» Yglesias on Berger Leak Beneficiary from fredschoeneman.com
matthew Yglesias has an interesting take on who leaked the Berger story: Contrary to what a lot of liberals are saying, the timing of this is all wrong to be a Republican plot. You would want to leak it the... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 21, 2004 5:13:53 PM

» Is the Berger Affair cover for Plame indictments? from BOPnews
I think the whole Sandy Berger affair is not, as most assume, about distracting attention from the 9/11 report. Instead, I think it is part of the campaign (along with the spin concerning the Senate Intelligence Report that said Joe... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 22, 2004 7:46:10 AM

Comments

I think you smell wrong, given the eager leaks from the DOJ and the quick and uniform talking points by the GOP flacks.

Posted by: praktike | Jul 21, 2004 1:47:37 PM

Further proof that you are dead fucking wrong.

DNC files FOIA request.

Posted by: praktike | Jul 21, 2004 2:10:18 PM

Sheesh, Matthew. Irresponsible is the word.

Posted by: ahem | Jul 21, 2004 2:14:54 PM

who cares who leaked it and when, the guy took classified information from a secure reading. He is guilty, he admitted it, and he should be prosecuted. This isn't a conspiracy to smear someone, Berger could have come out with this long before the leak, but didn't want to hurt his chances with the Kerry campaign. So what if the DNC filed a FOIA request, it's pure window-dressing to try and change the subject.

Posted by: Mike | Jul 21, 2004 2:15:59 PM

Suppose there was an Attorney General whose Justice Department has accused a former Treasury Secretary of running off with classified documents, or selectively declassified documents in an attempt to embarrass a member of the 9/11 Commission, or has a penchant for headline-grabbing announcements and press conferences...

Nah. Occam's Razor, please.

Posted by: ahem | Jul 21, 2004 2:17:05 PM

"Contrary to what a lot of liberals are saying, the timing of this is all wrong to be a Republican plot."

The timing is only wrong if it is the only bombshell they have. If they have a bigger revalation to come it would make sense to launch the lesser story first. Mind you ultimately the blame for this is Berger's and Berger's alone.

Posted by: Ross | Jul 21, 2004 2:29:13 PM

Actually, Mike, the DOJ wasn't too concerned with it so far. They didn't even make Berger the subject of an investigation.

Posted by: praktike | Jul 21, 2004 2:33:24 PM


...the DOJ wasn't too concerned with it so far. They didn't even make Berger the subject of an investigation.


Why hurry? They dragged their feet for a year to get closer to the election - and now is the time. Timing is everything.

Posted by: abb1 | Jul 21, 2004 2:47:09 PM

This is incredible, you question the timing instead of questioning Berger's motives and actions. The better questions to be asking would be why he did it, what documents did he take, and if this was just sloppiness, why did he do it twice? By questioning the timing you are merely trying to take the focus off of the fact that a former National Security Advisor illegally removed documents from a secure reading room and then either lost or destroyed some of them.

Posted by: Mike | Jul 21, 2004 2:59:48 PM

Matt - You haven't been around long enough.
The timing is right: 1. It establishes the counter story BEFORE everyone digs into the 9-11 report. If it came out after the report it would be a sidebar at best in the mainstream media, and would come across only as "so's your old man" in the house-media. This way it has a 2-day shelf life as the center of attention and sets up the counter-story ahead of time.
2. It's not worth holding til October -- it might be a nonstory by then, and you want to focus on more directly damaging candidate-related stuff then. Moreover, the counter narrative it sets up is fine for the 9-11 report (viz. Clinton probably has stuff to hide too), but just pointless in the closing days of the campaign.

Posted by: jm | Jul 21, 2004 3:01:29 PM

Wow, you really dislike Joe Biden. (I assume this post is referring to Biden, no? Use names when spreading rumors, dammit!)

Posted by: Dimmy Karras | Jul 21, 2004 3:02:27 PM

If it were a Dem behind the leak, the story wouldn't have been as sexed up as it obviously has been. For example, a Dem wouldn't spin putting index cards in one's pocket as "shoving notes down his pants". And the unsourced smoke about hiding notes in his socks, which I'll bet no one ever alleges under oath, has oppo earmarks as well.

Posted by: son volt | Jul 21, 2004 3:08:08 PM

How about "Irresponsible Blogging"?

Why does Matt hate Joe Biden? (the ill-disguised alleged-perp)

We don't know who leaked or why. The leaking does have some bearing on the story, but the speculation being tied to Biden (or the Dems) seems way over-the-top.

I just wish the SCLM would get the facts correct. Berger fucked up, and the Justice Dept seems to be curiously uninterested in bringing charges. That's also interesting.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 21, 2004 3:19:57 PM

Facts for more speculation on the leaker:

"President Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, disclosed Wednesday that the Justice Department notified the office of White House legal counsel Alberto Gonzalez about the probe before news of it leaked to the media Monday.

"My understanding is that this investigation has been going on for several months and that some officials in our counsel's office were contacted as part of the investigation," McClellan told reporters. "The counsel's office is the one that is coordinating with the Sept. 11 commission the production of documents and since this relates to some documents, the counsel's office was contacted as part of that investigation."

AP

Is the White House a likely source of a leak that damages Kerry?

Is President Bush running for reelection President and trailing in most polls?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 21, 2004 3:26:43 PM

I will be sad if this destroys Berger. I'm not really a fan, but this looks like an honest mistake and it looks like a crime that will be blown up by the Republicans into something much bigger than it actually is.

Meanwhile, Elliot Abrams is on the National Security Council.

Posted by: EH | Jul 21, 2004 3:49:29 PM

"Contrary to what a lot of liberals are saying, the timing of this is all wrong to be a Republican plot. You would want to leak it the day after the 9-11 report came out to try and bump that story off the front pages"

No, they would want to leak it just BEFORE the 9-11 report came out, so as to support the subsequent spin--"9-11 was all Clinton's fault, not Bush's--as the Commission would have concluded if Berger hadn't stolen the crucial documents"

Hard to imainge, by the way, a LEGITIMATE reason for the Justice Deptartment to be discussing this with the Office of the White House Counsel at this point in time . . .

Posted by: rea | Jul 21, 2004 4:00:06 PM

"By questioning the timing you are merely trying to take the focus off of the fact that a former National Security Advisor illegally removed documents from a secure reading room and then either lost or destroyed some of them."

Yeah. No doubt, we're doomed. Sandy Berger has single-handedly rewritten history and tainted the 11 September commission's findings. Now, everyone will think that Bush bears some measure of blame for that fateful day, merely because nothing exists that exculpates his utter inattention to the threat of state-less terror, all because Berger stole the preliminary drafts of analyses of Clinton Administration actions that took place in December 1999. Except:

"[11 September Panel] spokesman Alvin Felzenberg said yesterday that the panel is confident, based on records and other evidence, that it has been given copies of all the documents under investigation in Berger's case."

So, whatever Berger's criminal guilt (or, lack of it, given that intent or gross negligence must be proven), neither the United States or the Commission lack information because of it. For all the hyperventilation, the threat to the public interest seems pretty minor, unless you're Dennis Hastert, Tom Delay, Bill Frist, Gordon Smith, or Rick Santorum. So, that fact, and the fact that the incidents date from 2 September and 2 October 2003, and were referred to the FBI in January, and have gone un-reported until now, make Matt's interest far less "incredible" than the indignation spouting from the GOP.

Posted by: Brian C.B. | Jul 21, 2004 4:10:01 PM

I'll second the irresponsible blogging. What the hell is the point of coming up with all these conspiracy theories when we know so little about what really happened. I think Berger probably did something rather stupid, for what reasons I cannot say. But compared to the lies and distortions this administration gets away with every day ... Cheney and Halliburton, the chimps lost service records, the Plame outing ... uh oh yeah ... the stupid war ... this seems like small potatoes.

As this story broke and everybody started dreaming up all the possible angles, I was wondering about how he actually got this stuff out the door. I mean my old university library was had some pretty good security, sign outs, rooms without writing instruments allowed, alarm markers on books and periodicals, and a bunch of closed circuit cameras, not to mention real humans watching for bulges in people's pants. No excuse for Berger but this stuff should never have left the premises. I'll bet getting stuff out of the Bush family archives is much more difficult.


Posted by: Zaboo | Jul 21, 2004 4:29:16 PM

I think part of the problem is that we all view these documents as special, magical documents. They're "top secret" and "sensitive" and can only be viewed by people who've gone through the time-honored rituals of gaining a security clearance.

And I bet that lasts for, maybe, three months after you get your first "Top Secret" stack of documents.

After that, they're paperwork. And if you've been handling this stuff for long enough, it's merely paperwork that's a bigger hassle than most paperwork.

So, I happen to find it totally believable, if you assume that Berger had gotten to the point where "Top Secret" paperwork was just the same as the rest.

He showed up, took out his papers, and started making notes on his papers and the Top Secret papers. It was time to go, he stuffs his notes into his pockets (they were, apparently, on 3x5 cards...I put mine in my jacket and pants pockets too), stuffed his papers into his folder, and returned the rest to the Archives people, then goes home.

Then he gets a call stating, basically, "Hey, you took some of our stuff". He digs around, finds some of it but not all of it. He returns what he's got, feels bad about the whole thing, and that's about all there was to it.

Hell, it's just like college. At least once a semester I got a call that was, basically, "Dude! You took some of my homework with you!" and I had to dig through my backpack and, sure enough, I'd grabbed some of his work when I packed up....

Yeah, he knew better. He knew he wasn't supposed to take notes (it was against the rules, but not the law) and he should have rigorously checked his papers to make sure he wasn't taking home any of the Archive's stuff.

But you know what? I doubt Berger even thought about it. It was just paperwork. The magic of "Top Secret" had worn off long ago...

We fight that at our job all the time. So much crap is stamped "proprietary" and we have to share with our customer (and some of it has to be shared with, in the end, rivals...so we have to be careful about what goes where)...and it happens. Stuff gets into the wrong stacks, into the wrong folders, and ends up in the wrong place.

Had Berger taken originals, I'd be more suspicious. But he took copies. About the only explanation, other than "carelessness" I can think of for taking copies is the belief that someone is planning to lie about what that copy says, and you're going to push back.

Posted by: Morat | Jul 21, 2004 4:43:06 PM

What if the Pentagon accidentally destroyed documents related to President Bush's military service, and the AP were pushing in Federal court to have all documents released? Wouldn't you want a nice little story about something completely unrelated to occupy the press until the Democatic Convention? The Rs in Congress could get all worked up over it, and someone could say he was stuffing documents into his drawers. Everyone would think this was to distract people from the 9/11 commission, but really it was to distract from Bush's military record and the case in Federal court.

Just a thought.

Posted by: Bill Nazzaro | Jul 21, 2004 4:50:50 PM

He being Burger, of course, stuffing documents in his clothes.

Posted by: Bill again | Jul 21, 2004 4:52:18 PM

He being Berger, of course, stuffing documents in his clothes.

Posted by: Bill again | Jul 21, 2004 4:52:53 PM

One more thing.

The little "socks" detail has GOP opposition research written all the fuck over it. It's the kind of creative touch that makes them so damn good at scamming the rubes.

Posted by: praktike | Jul 21, 2004 5:15:12 PM

Why does Matt hate Joe Biden? (the ill-disguised alleged-perp).

I thought Matt at least sorta liked Biden.

You don't have to dislike someone to deem them capable of backstabbing.

I agree with most of the poster, though. It seems far-fetched. Even if Biden were to do something like that, why do it in a manner that makes your team's victory a little bit less likely? (I mean, the leak doesn't help the Democrats). Wouldn't it be more prudent to simply go to Kerry quitely and warn him about Berger's difficulties ("John, if you win this thing you'd better not tap Sandy for State.").

But in any event, how long would a criminal investigation in DC remain secret? Is it posible that it could have remained secret until after the election, or indefinitely? I don't know much about such matters, but my instincts would certainly tell me it would've gotten out soon...

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Jul 21, 2004 5:45:52 PM

The little "socks" detail has GOP opposition research written all the fuck over it. It's the kind of creative touch that makes them so damn good at scamming the rubes.

I know, that part was pretty good, wasn't it, praktike? I heard a rumor he had actually swallowed some documents in digestive-juice resistant thingies.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Jul 21, 2004 5:49:45 PM

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